space

Using the Nikon Slim Polarizer

With Digital
There is a tremendous amount of reflections when weíre out in the wilds shooting. You might have never have noticed it, but itís there. The vast majority of the time, the reflection has a blue case to it which literally reflects on the subjectís color. This blue cast affects the color of all the elements in your image and if at the right angle to the film plane, giving them all a blue tinge. This reflection is coming from the sky, the blue sky!
Many attribute great color in a nature photo to the use of vivid white balance when in actuality, the great color was a result of proper use of a polarizer. Proper use of a polarizer removes the blue reflection so the color we see with our eyes is seen and recorded by the film. It is essential you understand that the proper use of a polarizer is to remove reflections and not make the sky dark blue. There are times when a polarizer is used correctly it will also make the sky darker, but to see proper polarization you donít look at the sky, but at the ground.

Using a polarizer correctly takes talent just like using any other tool in photography! All you have to do is rotate the filter, right? That is correct, but when youíre rotating the polarizer you need to look through the viewfinder and look for the blue to disappear (this means you donít use the polarizer unless you have a bright blue sky overhead). You donít look at the sky, but you look at the ground. You rotate the polarizer looking at dirt if possible until the ground appears a nice, warm, rich chocolate moose brown (get it, chocolate moose, Mooseís technique?). Normally, the ground will have a cold, bluish, dead brown color when not viewing through a polarizer properly rotated. You want that ground warmed up to that rich chocolate moose brown because then you know youíve removed the blue from the scene.

What if the ground is not your subject, does this technique work? Polarizing light is another one of those physic things photography is so wrapped around. Technically, only objects approximately 90 degrees to the film plane are affected by a polarizer, thatís the full effect of the polarizer (and if the sky is in the photo, it turns dark blue at 90 degrees from the sun). In practice, you can see the effect of a polarizer even though the object might not be a true 90 degrees. Thatís why you rotate the polarizer and look. I recommend first looking at the ground because dirt is pretty much dirt and a lot easier for folks to understand the polarizing effect than looking at a critter or tree bark. Thatís because polarizers are not a cure all, but just another tool.

They donít always help! If youíre shooting in overcast light for example, a polarizer will do nothing for you. If youíre shooting a backlit subject, the polarizer will do nothing for you. Shooting a backlit subject means youíre shooting with the lens pointed towards the sun and at that angle, the physics are all against you.

Do I use the Polarizer with Digital? YES! Can you do the same thing in Photoshop? NO! Do I use a polarizer all the time? NO! Do I use the Moose Polarizer? NO, since Iím not using the 81a filter anymore.

With Film
There is a tremendous amount of reflections when weíre out in the wilds shooting. You might have never have noticed it, but itís there. The vast majority of the time, the reflection has a blue case to it which literally reflects on the subjectís color. This blue cast affects the color of all the elements in your image and if at the right angle to the film plane, giving them all a blue tinge. This reflection is coming from the sky, the blue sky!
Many attribute great color in a nature photo to the use of Velvia film when in actuality, the great color was a result of proper use of a polarizer. Proper use of a polarizer removes the blue reflection so the color we see with our eyes is seen and recorded by the film. It is essential you understand that the proper use of a polarizer is to remove reflections and not make the sky dark blue. There are times when a polarizer is used correctly it will also make the sky darker, but to see proper polarization you donít look at the sky, but at the ground.

Using a polarizer correctly takes talent just like using any other tool in photography! All you have to do is rotate the filter, right? That is correct, but when youíre rotating the polarizer you need to look through the viewfinder and look for the blue to disappear (this means you donít use the polarizer unless you have a bright blue sky overhead). You donít look at the sky, but you look at the ground. You rotate the polarizer looking at dirt if possible until the ground appears a nice, warm, rich chocolate moose brown (get it, chocolate moose, Mooseís technique?). Normally, the ground will have a cold, bluish, dead brown color when not viewing through a polarizer properly rotated. You want that ground warmed up to that rich chocolate moose brown because then you know youíve removed the blue from the scene.

What if the ground is not your subject, does this technique work? Polarizing light is another one of those physic things photography is so wrapped around. Technically, only objects approximately 90 degrees to the film plane are affected by a polarizer, thatís the full effect of the polarizer (and if the sky is in the photo, it turns dark blue at 90 degrees from the sun). In practice, you can see the effect of a polarizer even though the object might not be a true 90 degrees. Thatís why you rotate the polarizer and look. I recommend first looking at the ground because dirt is pretty much dirt and a lot easier for folks to understand the polarizing effect than looking at a critter or tree bark. Thatís because polarizers are not a cure all, but just another tool.

They donít always help! If youíre shooting in overcast light for example, a polarizer will do nothing for you. If youíre shooting a backlit subject, the polarizer will do nothing for you. Shooting a backlit subject means youíre shooting with the lens pointed towards the sun and at that angle, the physics are all against you.

In the same vain, polarizers are not just for photographing scenics! I use a polarizer quite often when photographing critters, especially big game. The incredible impact a properly used polarizer can make on an animals pelt is mind boggling! But this is a time when you have to think through the pros and cons of using that polarizer.

Polarizers have one major drawback! Polarizers suck up two stops of light. Their very nature excludes two stops of light from reaching the film. When shooting in low light situations or when you need lots of DoF so youíre at a slow shutter speed, you might not be able to afford the loss of two stops. As a very general rule of thumb (which Iím the first to break), I try to never photograph any action with a shutter speed less than 1/30. A good example of this is Grizzly Bears eating grass (a common thing). When grizzly bears or any other critter is chewing their jaw mussels effect the eye and at slower shutter speeds, the eye might be out of focus when a critter is chewing. This is a time I donít want to be below 1/30 and wonít attach a polarizer. I donít want to sacrifice sharpness for better color.

So whatís with this Moose Filter? As one emailer asked, the Moose Filter does not put antlers on a cow moose. The Moose filter is the combination of an 81a filter and a circular polarizer in one mount. The reason is simple for this combination. Youíve read how I always use an 81a filter. Youíve read how useful a polarizer can be. The combination of the two filters is lethal!

When shooting with ultra wides though, you cannot stack a polarizer on a 81a because the two stacked filters are seen by the film causing vignetting. Vignetting is the darkening of the corners of a photo. This is not desired. By having an 81a filter combined into one filter mount with a polarizer, you donít have vignetting. So you can have the benefits of the two filters when using your ultra wides. When I attach the Moose filter, I do remove the 81a filter already attached to the lens. This is because the combining of two 81a filters produces an effect thatís not really desired. The result is an over warming of the image.

top of page

Home | BT Journal | WRP Trading Post | Moose's Camera Bag | Digital Photography | Wildlife Photography | Landscape Photography
General Photography Tips | Workshops & Classes | Moose's Gallery | Moose Blog | Environmental Issues | Links | About Moose | Contact Info